Thai researchers develop robotic arm to deploy more COVID-19 jabs

As the world continues to battle with the global COVID-19 pandemic, particularly with the rise of the delta variant of the virus, countries are increasingly trying to speed up their vaccination campaigns. The problem is that some countries don't have enough vaccines yet, so, efficiency is paramount. Thailand is one of those countries, and researchers in the southeast Asian nation appear to have found a solution: a machine that can draw out COVID-19 vaccine doses more efficiently.

Using a robotic arm, the "AutoVacc" system can draw 12 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in four minutes from a vial, according to researchers at Chulalongkorn University, who made the machine that has been used at the university's vaccination center since Monday.

That is up 20% from the standard 10 doses drawn manually, they said. The machine only works on AstraZeneca multi-dose vials currently and labels show each vial can provide 10 to 11 doses.

"The machine guarantees with accuracy that we can gain an extra 20% from each vaccine vial – from 10 to 12 doses," said Juthamas Ratanavaraporn, the lead researcher of the team at the university's Biomedical Engineering Research Center.

"The extra 20% that we get means that if we have AstraZeneca for one million people, this machine can increase the number of doses to 1.2 million people," said Ratanavaraporn.

While some health workers using low dead space syringes (LDSS) that aim to reduce wastage can draw up to 12 doses per vial, it requires a crew and a high level of skill, she said.

"This could drain a lot of the health workers' energy. They would have to do this every day for many months," Ratanavaraporn said.

The research team says they should be able to produce 20 more AutoVacc units within three or four months, but that government funds and support would be needed to expand across the country.

The prototype machine costs 2.5 million baht ($76,243), including other materials like syringes, said Ratanavaraporn, adding that while they were open to export opportunities, that was something for the future.

(c) Daily Sabah


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